Antwon is most often compared to Notorious B.I.G. because the rappers share a fluid flow style spewed from gigantic frames.
That’s about where the similarity ends.
There’s little gangsta about Antwon, and Biggie wasn’t a sex-obsessed former punk rocker way into nerd culture. Also, Antwon’s still among the living and he’s yet to put up Biggie-size numbers on the hip-hop charts.
But the avant-rapper is internet-famous among underground hip-hop heads due to a series of remarkable mixtapes he’s released since 2011.
His lyrics bounce between the roles of a booty-crazed lothario and a smart-aleck pop culture encyclopedia, referencing everything from Gregory Peck in The Omen to Lindsay Lohan to the Germs’ Darby Crash.
His latest mixtape, In Dark Denim, is his strongest effort yet and seems to portend a breakout year. So far, his 2013 includes a hypnotic collaboration with lauded hardcore/shoegaze outfit Deafheaven and a tour with post-riot grrls White Lung, which visits Beauty Bar downtown Nov. 14.
Of all the unlikely road companions, how did a twerk-praising rapper with the signature song “Dying in the Pussy,” hook up a tour with a stridently feminist punk band?
“It’s tight. They’re just people I would hang out with anyway,” Antwon says. “It’s cool being on tour so we can hang out. You grow a bond without knowing it.”
Antwon spoke to CityLife from the road, en route to Portland’s Bunk Bar, home of a legendary sloppy joe.
“I heard they have good sandwiches,” he says matter-of-factly, “so I’m excited.”
The list of things that excite Antwon, 27, may not be what you expect. He loves thrash metal, bizarro Harmony Korine films and role-playing board games like Warhammer.
And, of course, the early recordings of the former Robert J. Ritchie.
“I love Kid Rock,” Antwon says, citing 2000’s headbanger “Dark & Grey” as a favorite track. “That’s the jam. I can jam to that.”
Besides outlandishly graphic lyrics, Antwon has grabbed attention for the stunning videos that highlight his rhymes.
A vintage camcorder look and flygirls in ‘90s garb make the clip for “Living Every Dream” look like it debuted on “Yo! MTV Raps” 20 years ago. The video for “3rd World Grrl” features an Antwon puppet a la “Crank Yankers” who hits the club with some ladies, gets his drink on and is last seen snorting something up his plush nose. “Helicopter” mashes up footage of a partying Antwon and crew with clips of Steve McQueen racing his ‘68 Mustang around San Francisco in Bullitt.
“It wasn’t my idea,” Antwon says of the McQueen footage. “But I love it.”
Antwon’s path to hip-hop is as unlikely as his offbeat tastes.
He grew up in Sunnyvale, Calif. As a youngster, he grooved on both Michael Jackson and Metallica. He began freestyling at 13, and later had stints playing bass for Philadelphia punk band Leather and twee-pop outfit Sour Patch. He moved to his current home of San Jose after struggling in Philly.
“I couldn’t find work,” he says. So he delved back into hip-hop with a new mindset. “I didn’t know what serious was. Serious is what I’m doing now.”
He sees rap as the latest in a series of pursuits to channel creativity. His past outlets included painting, photography and writing.
“I don’t think I’m always going to be doing hip-hop music,” he says. “But this is how I’m expressing myself right now.”
ANTWON opens for White Lung on Nov. 14, 9 p.m. at the Beauty Bar, 517 Fremont St., #A. Tickets $8 advance, $10 day of the show. 21+.